Friday, October 1, 2010

Artwork of the Week!

Week 17:

Sheila Spence (born 1952)
Chris, West Broadway
Black and white silver print

Winnipeg artist Sheila Spence studied photography at Red River College and at residencies in Banff, Quebec and Great Britain. Spence has gained respect for her strong photographic portraits which often have an underlying socio-political message. During the 1990s, she worked with Noreen Stevens under the name Average Good Looks and placed positive images of gays and lesbians in the public domain. In 1997, Spence engaged in a photographic project that was to prove controversial for crossing conventional boundaries of class and race. At the same time, Spence lived in the West Broadway community bordering the University of Winnipeg, a neighbourhood that had been labeled negatively by the media as a result of youth gang violence. The artist decided to photograph the children and teenagers in the area and allowed them to pose as they wished. Some of the kids flashed hand signals that referenced the language of the streets, while other portraits, like Chris, West Broadway, are seemingly casual shots of happy-go-lucky adolescents. When Gallery 1C03 attempted to present Spence’s West Broadway series in a solo exhibition in 1999, some community members objected to the art, resulting in the removal of the portraits and their replacement with blank canvases on which the public could voice their opinions of the situation.

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